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REPORT FROM IDC (article first published : 2005-10-24)

In an industry hungry for funding yet notorious for its high risk profile, it may seem unusual for an organisation like the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) - better known for its 65 years of billion Rand investments in large industrial and manufacturing projects - to invest in this sector of the economy.

Yet, says Moses Silinda, head of the IDC's Media and Motion Pictures Strategic Business Unit (SBU), the corporation nevertheless established its Media and Motion Picture in 2001 to promote investment in media and related industries, including advertising, printing, publishing; radio and television programming and studios; as well as the production of feature films, documentaries and television series.

"One of the main reasons for setting up an SBU with a focus on film and television financing was because of the high multiplying effect the industry has on job creation, its ability to encourage local talent and its contribution to skills development," says Silinda. "Also, from a financing point-of-view, there were no other significant role players at the time, which enabled us to help develop a local industry that's essential to telling the South African - and African - story as seen through the eyes of Africans themselves."

From its initial investment in the feature film Slash, the IDC has invested substantially in several television and film productions, funding more than 16 feature films and 12 documentaries.

"One of our more recent projects, and arguably the most well known, is Hotel Rwanda, which was nominated for three Oscars," he says. Starring US actor Don Cheadle, Hotel Rwanda was a US$26-million tri-partite production between South Africa, Italy and the UK that was mainly filmed in Alexandra and Soweto. There was also a very positive and emotional response to the filming of Hotel Rwanda at Cannes, while Antjie Krog's Country of My Skull, a film about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission also received much praise at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival."

Other major film projects the IDC is involved in include Stander, Red Dust and Olive Schreiner's Story of an African Farm, an entirely South African project that was released in August last year.

"The Media Motion and Pictures SBU is also co-financing include Platinum, Out on a Limb and, more recently, Tsotsi and The Breed; while local documentaries funded include The Life and Story of Dr. Chris Barnard, The Trial of Nelson Mandelaand The Life and Times of Sophiatown," Silinda says.

Commenting on the success of the SBU in the four years since its inception, Silinda says it is still too early to measure a financial return on the IDC's investments as most of the productions have not reached the full distribution cycle.

"Most of these productions are only in the first year or two of distribution, although some of the bigger highlights such as Hotel Rwanda have exceeded our expectations and are selling very well," he says. "The South African film industry is currently growing at a very healthy rate, and in spite of the fact that it can take up to 48 months to show a return on investment, all indications are that the SBU is making sound financial and developmental investments."

Yet Silinda says that financial return is not the most important criteria for film funding. When examining proposals for funding motion picture projects, besides a return on investment, the IDC measures the potential success of a project by the number of jobs that are created and by the level of skills transfer that takes place.

"The corporation's investments in the film industry are also not viewed in terms of individual productions only, but rather in the development of the local industry itself as well as its impact on job creation and the local economy," he says. "Hotel Rwanda, for instance, created 9,000 jobs in two weeks of filming, and almost 10,000 jobs over an eight week period."




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